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John Brewer, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published February 11 2014

St. Paul boy was trying to return bus, not steal it, he tells police

ST. PAUL - A 14-year-old St. Paul boy said he was just trying to return what he called an “abandoned” school bus Monday morning when he ended up going for a three-mile drive before crashing in a gas station parking lot.

The boy, who has not been identified, was arrested on suspicion of felony auto theft and taken to the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center, said Lt. Lorne Rosand, Roseville Police Department spokesman.

Rosand called the episode bizarre and said it was fortunate nobody was hurt.

According to Roseville police, the Centerline Charter bus was parked outside the Holiday gas station at Rice Street and Wheelock Parkway when the teen boarded it. He told police he had been watching the bus for about 20 minutes when he decided it had been abandoned and needed to be returned to Centerline’s headquarters, just a half mile up Rice.

About the same time, the operations manager for Centerline got a call from a bus driver, who said her bus had been stolen from outside the Holiday station. The keys were in the ignition, she said, but the bus was not running.

Moments later, the bus pulled into the Centerline parking lot. The manager hopped in his truck and radioed police about the stolen vehicle.

The teen, hearing the police call over the bus radio, panicked and drove out of the lot and headed north on Rice Street, according to police.

The manager caught up to the bus at Rice and County Road B2, where he yelled at the kid to stop driving. The manager told police the teen ignored him and turned against the light onto westbound County Road B2.

The bus eventually veered into a Shell gas station lot and got hung up on a pump island, police said.

Officers responding to the scene said the boy was with the Centerline manager when they arrived. The manager told police that the boy began crying and saying that he was just trying to return the bus when he got scared.

No schoolchildren were on the bus at the time of the incident.

The bus, valued between $40,000 and $50,000, sustained some damage, along with some pumps at the gas station.

Centerline was unavailable for comment.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.